“The obligation to keep their distance is the big problem, both in and outside education, while the rule is not proportional to the risk of infection that children have,” De Picker said, adding that enforcement of the rules by staff caused unnecessary stress and fears in kids.
“We see a lot of children are stressed because they can’t play tag or share toys,” she said. “They don’t understand.”
In the letter, the doctors call on the government to draw up a “code of conduct” specifically for children, which would allow them to be the only group not required to respect social-distance rules.
Citing concerns from parents about the impact of the isolation brought on by the crisis, the doctors emphasized that “physical and social contact with peers is crucial for the development of young children.”
According to the doctors, all kindergarten and primary school children should, therefore, be allowed to return to the classroom under a relaxation of rules until the school year is over in five weeks.
“Based on our medical expertise, we say: let them play and learn normally again,” they wrote, adding that outside the classrooms, children should also be allowed to interact with as many peers as they used to “cuddly toys included.”
The doctors’ letter comes on a day in which Flemish education authorities are expected to rule whether summer youth activities will be able to take place this year.
The 16,000 doctors have addressed their letter to the GEES, the group of experts steering the country’s lockdown exit, as well as the Flemish education authorities and Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block.